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United boss Erik ten Hag challenges Harry Maguire to ‘fight for his place’ at Old Trafford

Erik ten Hag: "I think he’s done really well, a really good World Cup.” Photo: Reuters© REUTERS

Harry Maguire: Ultimatum. Photo: Getty Images© Getty Images


Harry Maguire impressed Erik ten Hag at the World Cup and the Manchester United manager has challenged his out-of-favour centre-back to come back and fight for his place rather than look for a new club.

Ten Hag has again rallied against claims he does not rate United’s club captain or think he cannot fit into his preferred style of play.

But the Dutchman also insisted it was Maguire’s loss of form that caused him to be dropped. The former Leicester City defender appeared to have fallen to fourth-choice centre-back when the domestic season paused for the World Cup.

That had led to suggestions the 29-year-old would need to look for a new club, if not next month, then in the summer. But Ten Hag wants him to pursue another course, after confirming he had been in regular touch with Maguire throughout the tournament.

“I think he’s done really well, a really good World Cup,” said Ten Hag, who has given greater insight into his thinking in an hour talking to newspaper journalists in Spain than at any point of his Old Trafford reign. “He was really consistent and a good factor in the defending line for England.

​“I can only battle this idea that I don’t rate him so many times. I’ve been asked many times if he is good enough (to play for me) and it is clear he is good enough to play at the highest level. It is up to him to show that confidence on the pitch and he didn’t show that in all the games.

“When he is playing with his confidence, like now, he is a massively important player for us and that is what everyone expects. That’s what Harry expects from himself. He has that high standard, he wants to play at the highest level, he wants to lead the defensive line, so it is up to him. I’m sure he has the potential to play in our style and fit into our system.”

Ten Hag, though, as he has shown with Cristiano Ronaldo, is not a manager who is scared to upset big-name players if they are not producing. There is also a directness in his message that is typical of the Dutch.

“He has, for England, almost all the time good games,” said Ten Hag. “He had a period in Manchester where he performed badly and then, of course, there are difficulties. But when he is confident in himself, he will put that on the pitch.

“When he is working hard you will get that confidence and you are seeing that with the way he is playing for England.

“We want him to bring that back to Manchester so he can bring it on the pitch for Manchester United. I expect from him, the team knows what they expect from him. If he does that, he will be a great player for us.”

The rest is up to Maguire, with Ten Hag admitting the only way he would consider selling a player who cost £80 million in 2019 is if he no longer accepted he was not an automatic starter.

“After Brentford, I chose,” continued Ten Hag. “I had a feeling I had to make a change there (at centre-back) – it was nothing personal but I had to change the mentality.

“He was unlucky, that moment was bad for him, but it doesn’t say anything about his quality that he can’t do it or my opinion about his quality.

“Rapha (Varane) came in and is doing a good job. There are laws of the game in top football, you have to take your chance. Your chance will always come.

“The only thing he has to do is train well, perform well, he has games, he has rhythm and his chance will come. He will have a chance to show it.

“We will only consider selling Harry if he doesn’t want to be in these circumstances anymore. Until that moment, I am happy with him.

“I have said it to him and you, I can do nothing more. It is up to him to contribute to play himself into the team.

“There are laws of the game. We have 16-18 players in the squad and that is what you need at the top level if you want to play for trophies.

“It is about the players who together construct the best team, and that team is the team we will pick.”

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